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Lost in America(1985)

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

SYNOPSIS

After being passed over for a major promotion, Los Angeles advertising executive David Howard quits his job in a fury and talks his wife Linda into liquidating their assets, buying a Winnebago, and heading out across the country to find themselves and start a new life. When Linda loses all of their nest egg in a crazed night of gambling in Las Vegas, the couple are forced to lower their expectations and soon find that "dropping out" and living in small-town America without money is not the life-changing adventure they hoped it would be.

Director: Albert Brooks
Producers: Herb Nanas, Marty Katz
Screenplay: Albert Brooks, Monica Mcgowan Johnson
Cinematography: Eric Saarinen
Editing: David Finfer
Production Design: Richard Sawyer
Cast: Albert Brooks (David), Julie Hagerty (Linda), Garry Marshall (Casino Manager), Michael Greene (Paul Donne), Tom Tarpey (Brad Tooley), Joey Coleman (Skippy).
C-91m.

Why LOST IN AMERICA Is Essential

You know you've got an enduring classic movie when it manages to be very much about the period in which it was made, a clear reflection of its era, and at the same time universal enough to still remain relevant and enjoyable decades later. Lost in America (1985) is one such gem, produced in the midst of the Reagan Era, when the word "yuppie" had recently entered the vernacular to mean young urban (or upwardly mobile) professionals, men and women (and in the case of married couples, generally childless two-income families) often derided for their conspicuous consumption and their striving for social status.

At the beginning of Lost in America, David and Linda Howard (writer-director-star Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty) are apparently just that sort of couple. Surrounded by packed boxes on the cusp of moving into a newer, bigger, better home (where he will park his newer, more luxurious, more prestigious Mercedes), David begins to fret about whether or not they're making the right decision, and that's where another key observation of the times creeps into the story like a nagging itch. By 1985, the kids who had been weaned on the counter-culture, the Easy Rider (1969) generation, were grown up and solidly in the mainstream, but the idea of dropping out and starting life all over again was still a romantic-enough notion to entertain in the middle of a sleepless night. The irony that the Howards would chase that dream in an expensive motor home with a nest egg of more than $200,000 to fall back on would not occur to them until they had lost it all and were forced to beat a hasty retreat back into the rat race.

This is what makes the movie something anyone can still identify with. It is not so much, as it has often been termed, a "yuppie" movie or a critique of materialism (however skewed the Howard's thinking may be at the start of their journey) but a movie that, in Brooks's words, looks at the predicament of people who make a horrible mistake in life; they lose everything, panic, and find that, quite apart from having freed themselves, they now have to "eat sh*t" and realize they were not, in fact, "born to be wild."

Lost in America also remains remarkably fresh for us now because, unlike comedies that depend on high concepts or zany situations, or those that are too specific to the times in which they're made, it's about the eternal human condition and how the best and worst parts of us are there to be tapped, even at the most inappropriate times. You could even say it's a comedy about the things in life that aren't funny. In fact, the story comes close to losing our good humor altogether at the moment that Linda, the winsome, gentle wife, blows the couple's entire nest egg (a term we'll never hear the same after this picture) on an out-of-control night of gambling. How could she do it, we wonder, and how could her husband ever look at her the same again? One reviewer has suggested the major flaw in the movie is our inability to forgive Linda her transgression even after her husband does. It's not an unreasonable analysis, but it takes a bit more consideration to see where Brooks was going with this.

From the very beginning, Linda is obviously rather closed in and repressed, and she expresses her concern about the stagnation that comes from too many years of sticking to the "right" economic, social and professional track. Luckily, we also have the luxury of consulting the creator of the film for his take on Linda's Vegas meltdown, in an interview this writer conducted in March 2012 with Brooks specifically for The Essentials. "You're supposed to let stuff out, a little at a time, release the pressure safely, like a well-managed nuclear plant," he says. "Otherwise, it all just explodes disastrously." As Brooks sees it, Linda was just someone too blocked for too long and really in need of this one night of craziness. And as far as whether we can forgive her and recover enough to laugh through the rest of Lost in America, he had two secret weapons going for him. One was his decision to cast Hagerty, one of the most appealing and underrated comic actresses of the 1980s, because she was "someone who could lose all this money and the audience wouldn't want to kill her." The other was his own off-kilter, nervy humor, following Linda's disastrous faux pas with two classic scenes still quoted by fans: the attempt to talk the casino manager into returning their money ("the Desert Inn has heart, the Desert Inn has heart") and his outburst about the "sacred" nest egg and the principles that govern it.

It's fun to watch the movie today and realize that, apart from certain details of fashion and technology, it could almost have been made yesterday. "The idea of dropping out, of letting go, will always be alive," Brooks says, and the cyclical nature of people's relationship to money, status, and the need for life alternatives is what keeps the story interesting to him almost 30 years after its release. The 60s, he notes, were very much about opposing the capitalist, corporate, mainstream world, and he created characters in Lost in America who held on to a vestige of that rebellious spirit, even if they got its execution all wrong. "Then in the 90s, we see movies about the big engine of business and affluence revving up again. Now, here we are today in a place of people saying where do we go, what do we do now?" In these dark economic times many of us are looking again at leaving it all behind, changing our lives, thinking about growing our own food and other ways to reduce our needs and expectations, less out of rebellion than out of necessity. That ongoing cycle, and the desperation and panic that accompanies it--the "nagging terror inside the complacency" of the middle class that Pauline Kael admired in the film's satire--are what fuels the humor in Lost in America. And isn't that, after all, what really makes this an essential classic? Socio-economic analyses far aside, it's just so damn funny.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

Lost in America quite famously and frequently references the iconic counter-culture movie Easy Rider (1969), including the ironic use of that film's theme song, "Born to Be Wild," over the scene of Albert Brooks and Julie Hagerty leaving Los Angeles in a large and well-equipped motor home. When the couple is pulled over for speeding, Hagerty manages to get the state trooper to rip up their ticket by appealing to his memories of Easy Rider, which the motorcycle cop declares his favorite movie.

There is an award-winning 2009 documentary called Lost in America about a poet and musician battling mental illness in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

There is a 1999 TV documentary entitled Lost in Middle America (and What Happened Next) about the struggling town of Lima, Ohio.

Lost in America: A Dead-End Journey is a 2011 non-fiction book by Colby Buzzell about his travels across the country in the wake of the Iraq war and economic downturn.

Lost in America: A Journey with My Father is a 2003 autobiography by Sherwin B. Nuland, MD about his experiences as the son of Jewish immigrants.

A November 2011 review in Filmmaker magazine of Kelly Reichardt's film Meek's Cutoff (2010), about a group of 19th century pioneers trying to find their way west after a disastrous wrong turn, was titled "Lost in America."

Nicolas Winding Refn, director of the crime thriller Drive (2011), said he cast Albert Brooks in the role of a ruthless mobster because when Refn was a young teenager watching Lost in America, he was frightened by Brooks in the scene where he yells at Julie Hagerty. "Albert was like a volcano of emotions," Refn told Karina Longworth of LA Weekly in September 2011. "There was something really unique-and threatening. I felt that this guy, eventually, he will kill somebody-so let's make it in a movie."

In the mid-90s, Seinfeld creator Larry David said in an interview with Laugh Factory magazine that he had to keep working on the sitcom because when he and his wife first got married, they went to Vegas and blew all their money gambling "like in that Albert Brooks movie."

When Brooks released his first movie, Real Life (1979), the story of a documentary filmmaker who invades an ordinary family's daily life, critic Rex Reed wrote, "Why would a studio give this idiot the money to do this kind of nutty experiment?" In the opening of Lost in America, Brooks included Reed's voice expounding on comedy during Reed's appearance on Larry King's talk show. Reed had once compared Brooks's face to "an open-faced club sandwich." In a Playboy article years later, Brooks claimed to have been delighted with Reed's remark, saying, "I don't know, it's just a thing of mine. I've always wanted to be compared to deli food."

A 2006 television documentary about American road movies, Wanderlust, includes clips from Lost in America. A feature film entitled Wanderlust (2012) is also about a yuppie couple who loses everything and heads out on the road. A review of the movie for the online publication Huffington Post called it "Lost in America by way of Wet Hot American Summer" (2001), a comedy that featured Paul Rudd, one of the stars of Wanderlust.

A number of bloggers have used the scene of David trying to talk the Desert Inn manager into giving him his nest egg back as a metaphor for the Wall Street bankers pleading with Congress for a bailout (the obvious difference being that David's approach is unsuccessful).

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

Albert Brooks was born Albert Einstein but changed his name for obvious reasons. His older brother, Bob Einstein, is known for his fictional character "Super Dave" and for his role as Marty Funkhouser on the HBO comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm. Their father was the vaudeville and radio comedian known as "Parkyakarkus." He died on stage of a heart attack in 1958, when Albert was 11, during a Friar's Club roast of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

According to David Geffen in a 1987 interview, Brooks was paid $150,000 for Lost in America.

One of the boys who harass David in his job as a crossing guard is David Michael Katz, son of Marty Katz, the producer of Lost in America. Ten years later, David Katz was accepted into the American Film Institute's directing program.

The man driving the Mercedes near the movie's end is Herbert Nanas, executive producer of Lost in America and Brooks's manager. Besides his producing credit on five of Brooks's movies, Nanas has also produced several Sylvester Stallone movies (he can be seen in a bit part in Rocky II, 1979) and the Michael Ritchie baseball film The Scout (1994), in which Brooks starred.

The final scene depicts David and Linda returning to New York City but the shot actually shows David driving away from the city on the road leading out of the Lincoln Tunnel on the New Jersey side. The angle of the shot and position of the road, however, does look like they're driving toward the city

Cinematographer Eric Saarinen got his start working on the rock documentaries Jimi Plays Berkeley (1971) and Fillmore (1972). His father and grandfather were, respectively, the architects Eero and Eliel Saarinen. Eric also shot two other Brooks films: Real Life (1979) and Modern Romance (1981).

Co-writer Monica Mcgowan Johnson also worked on the scripts for Brooks's movies Real Life, Modern Romance, and The Muse (1999), her last credited screenplay before her death in 2010 at the age of 64.

This was the film debut of Art Frankel, who played the amused employment agent. Frankel was then 57 years old.

Memorable Quotes from LOST IN AMERICA

REX REED (Himself): "If it's really funny, I'll laugh. I don't need 40 other people to remind me that I should be laughing."

LINDA (Julie Hagerty): "Sometimes I wish we were a little more irresponsible."

DAVID (Albert Brooks): "I'm insane and responsible. This is a potent combination."

LINDA: "I don't like anything anymore. I don't like my life, I don't like my house, I don't like anything. ... Nothing's changing. I'm not, David's not, we've just stopped. Life's going by."

DAVID: "Shut up Brad! Your song stunk, I hate your suit and I could hurt you! ... I've seen the future! And it's a bald-headed man from New York!"

DAVID: "He'll buy that boat from that stupid boat catalog he's been making me look at for the last two months, and he will crash that boat off Catalina Island, and he will drown and die and seals will eat him."

DAVID: "Linda, quit, I'll wait right here."
LINDA: "Why - I can't quit now."
DAVID: "Yes you can!"
LINDA: "No I can't!"
DAVID: "I did!"
LINDA: "I know, but even if I wanted to, my boss isn't here, there's no one I can quit to."
DAVID: "Well, it's time to get out. We have to touch Indians. We have to see the mountains and the prairies and the whole rest of that song. Let's make love right now. I want to have sex with you right here."

DAVID: "We got a ride on the inflation train you wouldn't believe."

DAVID: "America, look out--here we come!"

DAVID: "What's this?"
BELLMAN (Radu Gavor): "Junior bridal suite."
DAVID: "Gee, I gave a guy a hundred bucks to get the best bridal suite in the house. Is there a senior bridal suite?"
BELLMAN: "I don't know."
DAVID: "But I gave him $100."
BELLMAN: "I don't know."
DAVID: "Can I get into this room? Is there a big living room that goes here?"
BELLMAN: "I don't know."
DAVID: "Do you think there'd be a way to get one large heart mattress? I don't think you can push those together."
BELLMAN: "I don't know."
DAVID: "Not at all?"
BELLMAN: "I don't know."

DAVID: "As the boldest experiment in advertising history, you give us our money back."
CASINO MANAGER (Garry Marshall): "I beg your pardon?"

DAVID: "Maybe I just didn't explain the nest egg well enough. It's a very sacred thing, the nest egg. And if you had understood the nest egg principle, as we will now call it in the first of many lectures that you will have to get because if we are ever to acquire another nest egg, we both have to understand what it means. ..."
LINDA: "I understand the nest egg."
DAVID: "Please do me a favor. Don't use that word, it's off limits to you. Only those in this house who understand it might use it. And don't use any part of it either. Don't use nest, don't use egg."

DAVID: "I've lost a woman! A whole woman!"

DAVID: "We're in hell. We've entered hell! When?"

DAVID: "My legs are asleep, let's live here."

DAVID: "I'm trying to change my life."
EMPLOYMENT AGENT (Art Frankel): "You couldn't change your life on a hundred thousand a year?"

DAVID: "What was your plan?"
LINDA: "I was thinking we go to New York as soon as we can."
DAVID: "And I eat shit?"
LINDA: "Yeah."
DAVID: "My plan, too!"

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

Albert Brooks made his acting debut on television in the late 1960s and directed his first film in 1976, a short called The Famous Comedians School, which aired on PBS. The same year, he began making short films for the first season of Saturday Night Live. His feature film directing career began with Real Life (1979), a take-off on cinema verite documentaries like the 1973 PBS series An American Family, followed by Modern Romance (1981), a comedy about a man in a difficult relationship and consumed by jealousy. Both films featured Brooks in the lead role and established him as a creator of movies that derive their comedy from very real characters and settings rather than exaggerated situations. The modest success of both pictures enabled him to get backing for a new project that would be, in his words, a "realistic and honest...modern love story in which marriage is depicted as an evolving process."

"I always loved the idea of making a life-long decision and finding out four days later that it was wrong. You know, burning your bridges and then having to eat sh*t. Here was this successful married couple who sell their house, buy a Winnebago, hit the road, lose everything in a week, and realize they've made a mistake. So the concept was all about backing up and eating sh*t. We all do it in little ways. I wanted to see it big." - Albert Brooks, explaining the genesis of Lost in America in a 1999 Playboy interview

In the press kit for the film's release, Brooks explained that he was always attracted to the notion of dropping out. "In or out of the system, people harbor the delusion that a new place, a new job, will make everything better, that the solution to your life is just around the corner," he said. "Sometimes I think of opening a restaurant in Oregon, like a teacher of mine from Carnegie Tech did. But mostly I think about fleeing to South America with all the money from this production."

In a March 2012 interview with me for The Essentials, Brooks said that about two years after the release of his previous picture, Modern Romance, he started working on the ideas mentioned above to create a comedy that played on the notion of a 1960s Easy Rider (1969)generation, now settled down and part of the mainstream but still entertaining the notion of dropping out, "changing their entire lives when they should have just taken a two-week vacation."

Brooks explained that he had a deal with ABC Motion Pictures to write a script for production. The company was active briefly in the 1980s with such releases as Silkwood (1983) and Prizzi's Honor (1985), but by the time he was finished with the script, the company was no longer in the business of financing movies, so he had to look for other backing. He found it with music mogul David Geffen, who had recently made a successful entry into motion pictures with Personal Best (1982) and Risky Business (1983). Geffen had a long relationship with Brooks, having produced Brooks's 1974 comedy album "A Star Is Bought."

Brooks collaborated with his frequent writing partner, Monica Mcgowan Johnson, on the script. The two had also worked together on Real Life (along with Harry Shearer) and Modern Romance. Brooks told TCM he and Johnson had a great work process. His method of developing a script was to act out the movie into a tape recorder with Johnson present. "She was a great audience, a great idea person, someone who knew how to throw things into the mix at just the right moment," he said, comparing the working relationship to "a good talk show segment" with the right amount of give-and-take. Her ability to just listen when he was on a roll or jump in to get him on track was exactly what he needed. "It's hard in life to find someone I feel comfortable doing that with."

The two writers sometimes worked on the script for Lost in America while driving in a car, which Brooks said was a perfect place for the movie's subject and settings. After the story was spoken into the recorder, it was transcribed, then shaped and reworked on paper.

Brooks said a little bit of the character of Linda Howard came from Monica Mcgowan Johnson, who actually did enjoy gambling.

Brooks told TCM that the idea of Linda losing all the money in one night in Vegas was in the script from the very beginning, and that he never second-guessed whether it was best to put the character in that position or whether the audience would question it. "She was so blocked, so stifled, so needing this huge amount of fun," he explained.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

Albert Brooks initially considered casting Bill Murray in the lead role in Lost in America and experiencing what it would be like just to write and direct. According to Herb Nanas, Brooks's manager and executive producer of the film, Murray was so booked at the time that the picture would have had to wait at least a year for him, so Brooks decided to go ahead and play the part, realizing that losing the momentum would be a bad decision.

For the part of his wife, Brooks cast Julie Hagerty, who had recently made her mark as a comic actress in Airplane! (1980) and its 1982 sequel and in Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982). In my interview with Brooks for The Essentials, he said she was always his first choice. "She had a quality I knew from the beginning I needed, someone who could lose all this money and the audience wouldn't want to kill her," he said. "She has an odd comic quality, instinctive in that off-kilter way of behaving."

Lost in America was shot over the course of 45 days. Only three days were spent on a sound stage; the rest was done on locations across the U.S., including spots in Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington, D.C., among others, as well as the movie's main locations, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and New York. The small town where the couple settles for a short time after losing all their money is Safford, Arizona.

Brooks and his cast and crew worked in actual functioning facilities, and instead of props and extras, preferred to include real people and objects that were on the scene. Producer Marty Katz said that using studio sets for most of the picture "would have cheated the audience of a rich movie experience and wouldn't have fully expressed the theme of the film."

In Las Vegas, the company worked and stayed at the Desert Inn Hotel, filming in the casino, lobby, and coffee shop. Using the most up-to-date lighting instruments available at the time and shooting on high-speed film, director of photography Eric Saarinen and his crew were able to avoid the usual, powerful movie lights that would have detracted from the authentic atmosphere of an operational casino.

In his autobiography, Garry Marshall, the producer-director who plays the head of the Desert Inn casino, said that he was highly frustrated and annoyed by the numerous takes Brooks did of the scene in which David tries to talk the manager into returning the couple's money. When he saw the film and realized how much that contributed to the character's own sense of frustration and irritation on screen, Marshall declared he was very satisfied with the final result.

The scenes at Hoover Dam were shot on both the Arizona and Nevada sides of the structure. The montage at the film's end, showing the couple speeding across the country to New York in their Winnebago, took ten days to film. Various perspectives on the trip were captured by placing cameras in the motor home's passenger seat, mounted in a camera car traveling with them, and set up at roadside.

The journey made by the main characters across the country from Los Angeles to New York was actually shot in reverse order, starting on the East Coast and heading west. Brooks said the last scheduled shoot of the three main locations was New York, so it only made sense in terms of time and money to drive West from there.

"The drive West was great fun--for about the first 200 or 300 miles," Brooks wryly noted. "Not that driving across country is bad, just not with that many people in those conditions." With 30 people--cast and crew--piled into two Winnebagos, searching for locations to shoot and staying in "crummy motels," the trip became increasingly more miserable. "We got about as far as Phoenix before everyone stopped talking to each other."

One tricky part of the cross-country shoot was finding shots that matched with the lyrics of the song Brooks had decided on for the soundtrack to the montage, Frank Sinatra's recording of "New York, New York." Brooks had written the song into the script from the beginning, when the ad rep from New York tells David the company landed the rights to "New York, New York" for the Ford campaign. Brooks said he was pretty sure that up to that point Sinatra had not allowed anyone to use any song recorded by him in a movie in which he did not also appear, but Brooks made a good plea to Sinatra's lawyer, Mickey Rudin, followed by an obviously effective letter to Sinatra himself. Securing the number for the soundtrack was a real coup for the production.

Brooks drove the Winnebago for many of the shots but he was not comfortable doing it anywhere but on a straight road with no turn-arounds or back-ups. He did, however, actually swing the vehicle up to the curb on the busy Manhattan street for a shot at the end of the movie.

Brooks's manager and the film's producer, Herb Nanas, went along on the cross-country trip. At one point, in New Orleans or somewhere in Louisiana, Brooks recalled, Nanas asked to be given a chance to pilot the RV and was allowed to back one of them out of where it was parked, tearing the awning off the side. He was not allowed to drive again for the rest of the trip.

A the end of the cross-country trip, Brooks had about four hours of material that had to be sifted for what looked best and most matched the song lyrics, then edited down into a montage lasting only several minutes.

by Rob Nixon

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teaser Lost in America (1985)

Awards & Honors

The National Society of Film Critics gave Albert Brooks and Monica Mcgowan Johnson the award for Best Screenplay.

Film Critics Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times), Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader), and J. Hoberman and Andrew Sarris (both of The Village Voice) put the film in their list of Top Ten Movies for 1985.

The film was rated number 80 on Bravo television network's 2006 list of the 100 Funniest Movies.

The film came in at number 84 on the American Film Institute's list of the funniest movies of all time, issued in 2000.

In its 1999 year-end Millennium issue, Rolling Stone magazine and its film critic Peter Travers offered picks for the essential movies of the preceding century that were made by mavericks who "busted rules to follow their obsessions...in the defiant spirit of rock & roll." Lost in America was ranked number 76.

The Independent Film Channel (IFC) rated the scene of David leaving his ad agency after the blow-up with his boss as the number 8 best job-quitting scene of all time.

The Critics' Corner: LOST IN AMERICA

"Observant and very funny. Brooks is especially good at hearing exactly how people talk, and how that reveals things about themselves." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, March 15, 1985

"An inspired comedy in [Brooks's] own dryly distinctive style. If Mr. Brooks isn't often laugh-out-loud funny, that's largely because so much of what he has to say is true. ... Mr. Brooks and Monica Johnson have written Lost in America as a one-man show that both embraces and lacerates the character Mr. Brooks plays. That attitude is more realistic than self-contradictory, given their droll, uncompromising vision of David's life and its limitations." - Janet Maslin, New York Times, February 15, 1985

"Lost in America isn't as pungent as it might be: the dialogue has flaccid patches; the story just goes on for a while, then knocks off rather than concludes. But two elements give it some charm. First, its ease. ... Second, the ironies. ... Lost in America strikes a small, if not quite sharp enough, blow at the sentimentalities about the superiority of country over city, moral and otherwise, the superiority of subsistence over comfort." - Stanley Kaufman, The New Republic, March 18, 1985

"Brooks is a shrewd, deadpan observer of the secret life of middle-class Americans. He likes to bring their dreams of glorious escape to life, let them taste their new world, then watch them scurry back to the comfortable and familiar. His comedy would be cruel if Brooks were not so good at playing the victims he concocts: so pompously thrilled as he rationalizes their lurches off the beaten track, so bone scared when things go awry. In Hagerty and Garry Marshall, the TV mastermind who plays a casino boss, he has glorious foils. Lost in America does not conclude; it merely ends, as if Brooks had run out of money or inspiration before he could think up a third act. But the year is unlikely to produce a funnier unfinished symphony." - Richard Schickel, Time, March 18, 1985

"Albert Brooks may have conceived this character because he saw the possibilities for this kind of maddening twerp in himself, but David is a fully created obsessive fool. He's a highly verbal jerk who half knows he's behaving like a jerk but can't stop himself-he's a self-conscious, pesky toddler at loose in the world. But though he's tiresome to everybody in the movie, he isn't tiresome to us. David's lines have been sharpened to a fatuous fine edge - he keeps us laughing at him. And Lost in America doesn't dawdle; it makes its comic points and moves on. Julie Hagerty is an ideal choice for David's mate: you listen to Hagerty's Linda and you know why she puts up with him. Her little-girl breathiness tells you. And the dim stress and panic of her gaze suggest that somewhere in the past she has been frightened and David is the Teddy bear she clutches. (These two are endlessly apologizing to each other; they do it so automatically they might be apologizing in their sleep.) ... The movie is so good that it needs to flower; it's like a Sturges idea that runs dry. But it's still a nifty, original comedy. The performances in the along-the-road vignettes are like a series of small presents to the audience. ... It would be great if Albert Brooks could get to the point of showing the interaction of a group of these contemporary monomaniacs - which is essentially what Sturges did (though Sturges didn't rip the characters from inside himself). Brooks is on to something: satirizing the upper middle class from within, he shows the nagging terror along with the complacency." - Pauline Kael, The New Yorker, April 18, 1985

"It is too bad that in Lost in America Albert Brooks is only kidding; all the film needs to be a devastating comedy is a little seriousness. The impossibility of breaking out of the system, the robotization of the career-oriented, upwardly mobile middle-class couple who, even with a shove of fate to nudge them along, cannot start afresh in some spontaneous, grass-roots, laterally mobile way, has powerful seriocomic potential; not for nothing has Preston Sturges's name been invoked in connection with this film. But despite a fine farcical frenzy, acute observation of everyday absurdities, and some wrenchingly comic episodes, the film cannot lift itself into high comedy, even if it towers over whatever else is around." - John Simon, National Review, May 17, 1985

"Albert Brooks' movies contain speeches of mad comic indignation that hold up like Shakespearean soliloquies. There is, for instance, the Nest Egg Principle speech from Lost in America. - Paul Brownfield, Los Angeles Times, August 26, 1999

by Rob Nixon

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